Part 2 of 3 in our Identity Theft Blog Series for National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month.
Have you checked your child’s credit score lately?
It used to be that adults were the only victims of identity theft. From going through their mail to “skimming” a debit card at an ATM, to stealing consumer data off the Internet, criminals have become adept at stealing adults’ information and using it for their own gain. And now they’re committing the same crime against children.
Over 1.5 million children have their identity stolen each year (50% under six years old), and the numbers appear to be rising. A primary reason is that technology has made it a simple task for thieves to find “dormant” Social Security Numbers belonging to children who have never used them. These numbers are then sold on the dark web to criminals who use them to establish phony accounts and run up huge debts in the child’s name.
The potential result is that a child’s credit history can be destroyed before he or she has a chance to build one. Child identity theft is difficult to detect because children don’t pay attention to their Social Security Numbers (if they even know they have one) and many parents don’t know that child identity theft exists. Sadly, this means it’s possible that neither the child nor the parent, will discover the child’s identity has been stolen until that child’s first credit application as an adult has been denied.
Signs of Child Identity Theft
There are a variety of events that at first might appear harmless but after further review might be signs that your child is a victim of identity theft.
Unsolicited Credit Offers.
Credit card offers mailed to your home in your child’s name could be that a thief has stolen your child’s identity.
Bills and Collection Letters.
Bills or collection letters sent to your child are often signs that credit accounts have been opened in your child’s name and have been unpaid.
Social Security Administration Account Statement.
These are annual statements that provide information about social security contributions and anticipated benefits. Since your child hasn’t yet contributed to social security, receiving one of these statements in their name means something is amiss.
Protecting Your Child’s Identity
It’s a fact, the financial future of a child whose identity has been stolen could be at risk. For example, a young adult who is unknowingly a victim of child identity theft could have his or her loan application rejected by a bank. His or her credit score might be too low for a credit card company to accept him or her as a customer. These are just two reasons why it’s so important to start protecting your child’s identity from the earliest age.
- Teach older children to be cautious about providing personal information. If they’re unsure whether or not to share their information, they should check with you before doing so. And here’s a must: advise them never to give out their personal information over the Internet.
- Check your child’s credit report periodically as an extra level of security and peace of mind
- Learn the privacy policies at schools, clubs, doctor’s offices, etc. to see how your child’s information will be used and protected.
- Monitor your child’s social media and online activity. Stay aware of who they’re talking to and what information they’re sharing on the Web.
- Automatically provide your child’s personal information to anyone who asks: Discover the reason why this information is required and then decide if you feel the reason is legitimate. If you’re asked to provide your child’s birth certificate or Social Security Number, find out the filing procedure, how secure it will be and if it will be destroyed when no longer needed.
- Share too much information on social media. Criminals know how to piece together your personal information to put your identity, and that of your child, at risk.
- Carry your child’s (or your own) Social Security card in your purse or wallet. Keep the original documents, and any copies, in a safe place.
Last but not least, keep your children informed about identity theft and the risks. Find age-appropriate ways to teach them what identity theft is, how important it is to keep their personal information to themselves and why they shouldn’t give this information up just because someone asks for it. Understanding these things today can help keep identity thieves out of their business in the future.
Take a look at myFICO forums to see how others have managed to prevent identity theft – for themselves and their families.